If you have been following us for a while, then you will probably know that Ilaria and I are both from Sardinia, the beautiful island in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea. I have just spent my summer holidays there and besides my family, friends, the fine sand beaches and crystal clear sea there is one thing that never ceases me to amaze me: Sardinian food.
Sardinia offers a huge selection of typical food that varies according to the different areas of the region. Its ancient recipes are based on local and genuine ingredients, and are passed from generation to generation.
Bread, seafood, roasted meat, pasta (filled or not), cheese are part of our own tradition, and we are lucky enough to enjoy those delicatessens while drinking superb white and red local wines.
Weird food from Sardinia
During my stay, I went to my grandparents’place, a small village in Ogliastra, where I ate a lot of food that might appear extremely weird to everyone who did not grow up in Sardinia (especially outside of Italy), like a questionable cheese or pig’s brain. Such things seem absolutely normal to me and yet, when I tell my friends what we actually eat in Sardinia, they can’t believe what I say.
Therefore, I decided to shortlist 5 specialties that most people will find gross – but that I highly recommend trying at least once!
Bottarga, or butàriga in Sardinian language – is made of salted and cured fish roe. The roe can come from swordfish and tuna, but the flathead grey mullet’s roe is the most common one. Although we are not its only consumers, we do use it quite a lot.
For example, bottarga can be thinly sliced over bread or salads, or even grated over pasta. I am so crazy about it that if I had to bring back to London only one thing from my hometown, then I would probably choose bottarga!
Curing time and saltiness may vary according to every producer’s taste, but when this fishy dry ingredient is topped over your meal it’is absolutely delicious! Flavour and taste are a bit strong though, and not all of my friends like it.
Could this be the reason why they are not my friends anymore?
I can hear my British friends -and readers- going crazy here: such a beautiful and regal creature, that’s often kept as a pet in the United Kingdom, is being eaten by (Sardinian) people? Yes, it is. And I swear it’s mouthwatering.
Horse’s meat is tender and juicy when it is cut and grilled properly, and when I say grilled properly I mean one thing only: rare/medium rare. To cook this meat more than medium rare makes it tough and chewy, and it should be persecuted as a crime.
Horse steaks are pretty common in Sardinia, and people usually spread a bit of extra virgin oil, garlic and parsley over the meat. Personally, I prefer to eat it just as it is when it comes out of the grill, without adding any spices or toppings that could alter its flavour.
Now, this is where we get to talk about some seriously weird stuff. Treccia means braid, and it is named after the shape and appearance of the final product. The original name for this food is cordula. It is really complicated and time-consuming to prepare this recipe, but it is worth it.
Basically, the organs (liver, pancreas, heart and glands) of a baby goat are kept together by a big skewer and the intestines are entwined around it. You can have a look at this meticulous preparation here on YouTube.
The longest and most tiring part is the accurate and throughout cleaning of the intestines, which are grass-free since the animal has only been fed with its mother’s milk.
When they are roasted on fire or grilled the intestines become fatty and crispy, while they stay juicy and tender inside. Once you try this food you will ask yourself why you didn’t have it before!
By the way: you could also cook it inside a pan with peas… but I prefer the roasted one 🙂
“Caglio” -or callu/caggiu in Sardinian language-, is made with the milk found inside of the stomach of a baby goat that did not eat any grass during the first months of its life. In order to get the proper creamy consistency before being ready to eat, the stomach is usually knotted and hung up to dry perfectly.
Boy, is it strong. It is very strong. Like, extremely strong. And spicy like any other cheese you’ve tried. However, spreading just a little bit of it on a slice of pane carasau while holding a glass of cannonau in your hand will take you pretty close to food orgasm.
By the way, did I mention that you can even find goat’s hair inside of the cheese? Don’t pay attention to them, just skip them and keep on eating this scrumptious food!
The first position can only belong to our casu marzu, or “maggot cheese” (which actually means “rotten cheese”). It derives from Pecorino and is basically a cheese in decomposition. Cheese’s fly larvae are deliberately introduced into the cheese: this makes the fermentation process stronger and faster, thus giving a soft and creamy texture to the final product.
You will still find larvae inside of the cheese, an army of tiny white worms smaller than a centimeter. Be aware of the fact that these little guys can jump incredibly high and far away from the plate, so keep an eye on them! Having living worms inside of the cheese is a good sign though: if the worms are dead, it means that it is unsafe to eat it!
Of course, due to food and hygienic regulations, it is illegal to produce this cheese, but you can still find it in many villages in Sardinia (just like I did at my grandparents’ place). I know that some of you might be saying “Nope! Nope, nope!!!”, and I can understand that.
But you should at least try only a small amount of it over a piece of bread, and feel just how powerful it is. It will burn your tongue, and the flavour will last for a long time.
In conclusion, we eat a lot of unusual things in Sardinia: eels, octopus, snails, pigeons, blood sausages, any cheese and so on. However, you can also have a less extreme gastronomic experience when visiting the island… but why don’t you try out everything at least once?
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